Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region, their staff and volunteers aren’t letting the COVID-19 pandemic halt the life-changing impact of one-to-one mentoring on at-risk youth in our community. BBBS offices have been closed to the public since March 16th, and staff are working remotely, but the need for mentoring continues. “The impact of the coronavirus is not lost on the children we serve,” BBBS Executive Director Scott Litle stated. “Many of our Littles come from families who already struggled with financial insecurity before the outbreak, and now face new challenges. This puts a lot of added stress on our Littles. Also, many of our Littles struggle with mental health problems like anxiety and depression, conditions that can worsen in times of added stress. Our Littles are scared, and their friendships with their Bigs are more important than ever.”
Bigs and Littles are currently unable to meet physically under the Governor’s stay-at-home order, but this hasn’t stopped Bigs and Littles from finding ways to connect. “We are blessed to have an incredible group of Bigs who have found very creative ways to stay connected with their Littles,” Director of Mentoring Programs Angel Moore stated. “Many of our matches have opted to use video chatting apps to stay connected, but we’ve also heard stories of Bigs and Littles mailing letters to each other, playing video games online together and hosting virtual craft nights and workouts. I even heard a story today about a Big who taught his Little how to play chess online. The commitment our Bigs have to their Littles, their mental health, and their safety is truly special.”
With the remainder of the 2019-20 school year cancelled, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Lunchbox Learners and Teaming Up With Youth programs were also forced to end early. “We were very sad that our Bigs and Littles didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to each other,” Moore shared. “Everything happened so abruptly.” Despite the untimely cancellation of the programs, Match Coordinators and Bigs have worked together over the past several weeks to mail books and letters to their Littles, thanking them for their time together. The books were donated to BBBS earlier this year by Barnes & Noble in Midland.
The agency is also grappling with lost revenue from fundraising events they were forced to cancel. “We’ve already lost over $10,000 in revenue from cancelled fundraising events in March and April,” Litle noted. “Several other events, like upcoming Bowl for Kids’ Sake dates and Building Bright Futures Breakfast are in jeopardy if the stay-at-home order is forced to continue for months. Now, more than ever, we are asking our community to step up and help us in any way you can. Our ability to continue providing critical resources to our Bigs and Littles depends on it.”
While current Bigs and Littles are able to continue meeting virtually, Match Coordinators are unable to match new volunteers with kids in need at this time. Currently, Big Brothers Big Sisters has a waitlist in the Great Lakes Bay Region of 50 kids. That number is expected to grow in the coming months as more families deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As restrictions begin lifting, it will be more critical than ever that members of our community step up and join us as Bigs,” Litle said. “It only takes 2-3 times a month to make a life-changing impact.”